Typically, a winning streak like the Nuggets' current 13-game run would be one of the NBA's biggest ongoing stories, but Denver's current stretch has been overshadowed by Miami's streak, which is up to 24 consecutive wins. That's probably fine with head coach George Karl, who is focused on getting his team a top-four seed and home court advantage for the first round of the postseason. Karl spoke to Sam Amick of USA Today about a number of topics, including his contract situation and how the team has evolved since the Carmelo Anthony trade. Here are a few highlights from Karl:
On turning into a contender so soon after moving Carmelo:
"I definitely think that the speed that we've built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me. We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games.
"And then you had the Nene trade last year. Nene was another piece that we changed up. That was kind of the final addition that 'we're going to go with young players.' During the year, we played Kosta (Koufos) and Timo (Timofey Mozgov) a lot more than we played Bird (Chris Andersen) and Nene. We turned it over to all the young guys. The team has evolved. It's worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they're good enough, that's what we're doing this year."
On managing a deep roster and deciding on crunch-time lineups:
"I have no problem finishing any way I think I can win. Sometimes that ruffles the feathers a little bit of my players. But Corey Brewer is the guy who I think has played well enough to finish a lot of games. I don't do it all the time, and when I don't do it I think it's unfair to Corey, because even though (Andre) Iguodala and Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) are the high-paid dudes, sometimes Corey is the better basketball player. It's not right that we always give it to the guy who gets paid the most money. There should not be an entitlement that because you get paid the most money, that you should finish every game. But if you don't do it, then the agents are going to call and the players are going to mope and so you negotiate that. It's a compromise as a coach."
On whether his track record gives him more leeway with coaching decisions:
"I don't think there's any question that I don't think young coaches can maybe take the risks that I take. But in the same sense, I think my staff and I work very hard on explaining what we're doing. And we have no problem with a player wanting to play, and we have no problem answering a question of why you're not playing — in fact we encourage it, we like it, we want players to want to play, we want them to be angry when they're not playing, but we don't want them to degrade the team or negate the team (with) a negative attitude during the game or during practice or in the locker room."
On whether he's considering retirement:
"Well, I've got one year left on my deal here (after this season), with a three-year option. I don't think I think about retirement, but I don't think about the rat race of what's my next job going to be. It's not in the back of my mind, other than I'm going to probably finish my career — hopefully I finish my career here in Denver. That gives me, again, more balance and probably a more secure perspective on coaching than most coaches have in this business because I think all coaches are always worried about their job a little bit."